Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development

Locomotor and Perceptual Abilities of Individuals with and without DCD

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  • Coordination Disorder (DCD)We have recently finished collecting data for our study on locomotor and perceptual abilities of individuals with and without DCD. This study was funded by the ESRC. We have outlined our findings to date below.

    Why these tasks?

    Every day we walk around busy environments such as our local high street, to do this without colliding into people or objects we have to visually monitor the environment and make adjustments to our movement in line with what we see. This project was designed to consider exactly how we go about avoiding obstacles in our pathway and how this is different in individuals with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Primarily the project focused on negotiating a gap/aperture between obstacles such as that created by a doorway or parkedcars. Such a task has both a visual element (deciding whether it is possible to fit through) and a motor element (actually turning the shoulders to fit through).

    Continuous walking

    Before we can start thinking about how we avoid obstacles we first need to look at basic walking skills. The small reflective markers we placed on you/your child allowed us to measure how walking is controlled. We measured placement of the feet and movement of the upper body as both are important during walking.

    Locomotor and Perceptual Abilities of Individuals with and without Developmental 1

    What did we find?

    The adults with DCD showed no difference in how they placed their feet (the length and width of each step) compared to the adults without DCD. However, we saw some interesting differences in upper body movement. The adults with DCD showed more variable backwards and forwards upper body movement than the adults without DCD. The children with DCD showed more variable side to side upper body movement than the children without DCD. More variable body movements tend to reflect difficulties in motor control.

    We also saw clear age differences (from childhood through to adolescence) with an improved control of the upper body with age. This was seen for both the individuals with and without DCD.

    What does this mean?

    The switch from difficulties with side to side movement to front to back movements from childhood to adulthood in DCD suggests a shift in the control mechanism for this movement.

    Who have we told about our findings?

    Our findings have been presented at the 11th International Conference on DCD in France in addition the adult data has been published in the journal Human Movement Science and the child data has been submitted for publication in Experimental Brain Research

    Du, W., Wilmut K., Barnett, A.L., (2015) Level walking in individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder: an analysis of movement variability. Oral presentation at the 11th International Conference on Developmental Coordination Disorder, July, France.

    Du, W., Wilmut, K. & Barnett, A. (2015) Level walking in adults with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder: an analysis of movement variability. Human Movement Science, 43 9-14

    Navigating through apertures

    In the second part of the study we looked at how children and adults pass through apertures. When we walk through a doorway we must first judge whether we will fit through, this is linked to what we know about our own body size. A narrow gap may allow a child to pass freely while an adult needs to turn their shoulders. We measured this by asking you/your child to stand still and judge whether they could walk through an aperture.  Once you have decided whether you can fit through you have to change your movement to make sure you don’t bump into anything. To measure this we we placed markers on your/your child’s shoulders and asked you to walk through the apertures. Individuals with DCD and their parents often report that they tend to bump into obstacles, but is this because they have a difficulty judging size or because they cannot change their movement in the right way?

    What did we find?

    When just looking at the apertures all of the individuals with DCD underestimated the amount of room they needed, so people with DCD think they can pass through an aperture without rotating the shoulders that is simply too small. When we asked our participants with DCD to actually walk through the apertures we found that the movements they made over-estimated how much room they needed, turning more and far more often than the participants without DCD.

    What does this mean?

    In a lab setting none of our participants actually bumped into any obstacles. This suggests that in a setting with no other distractions participants with DCD can take their time and can sucessfully pass through, turning more than they need to. It may be that in everyday life, when there are lots of distractions, individuals with DCD don’t have enough time and this causes them to to revert to their initial judgement which underestimates the space they need to safely pass.

    Who have we told about our findings?

    This work has been presented at two conferences in the USA and France, in addition the adult data has been published in the journal PloS ONE and the child data has been submitted for publication in Developmental Science.

    Barnett, A.L., Wilmut K., Du, W. (2015) Locomotor Behaviour of individuals with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder while Navigating through Apertures. Oral presentation at the 11th International Conference on Developmental Coordination Disorder, July, France.

    Barnett, A.  L, Wilmut, K. (2014)  Navigating the environment in individuals with and without development coordination disorder: Can I walk through that gap? North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, June, Minneapolis.

    Wilmut, K., Du, W., & Barnett, A.L. (2015). How do I fit through that gap? Navigation through apertures in adults with Developmental Coordination Disorder. PLoS ONE

    What does all of this mean?

    In this study we considered a number of abilities in individuals with and without DCD, we were trying to take what we see as problematic for these individuals in the real-world and deconstruct this in the lab. We have seen that children and adults with DCD can safely navigate their environment. However, there were some differences in the way that movement was controlled, which may present difficulties in more complex environments. This research goes some way to help us understand the precise nature of the movement difficulties in DCD which is needed in order to help design more helpful interventions.